In recent years, the influence of the tumor microenvironment (TME) on cancer progression has been better understood. Macrophages, one of the most important cell types in the TME, exist in different subtypes, each of which has a different function. While classically activated M1 macrophages are involved in inflammatory and malignant processes, activated M2 macrophages are more involved in the wound-healing processes occurring in tumors. Tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) display M2 macrophage characteristics and support tumor growth and metastasis by matrix remodeling, neo-angiogenesis, and suppressing local immunity. Due to their detrimental role in tumor growth and metastasis, selective targeting of TAM for the treatment of cancer may prove to be beneficial in the treatment of cancer. Due to the plastic nature of macrophages, their activities may be altered to inhibit tumor growth. In this review, we will discuss the therapeutic options for the modulation and targeting of TAM. Different therapeutic strategies to deplete, inhibit recruitment of, or re-educate TAM will be discussed. Current strategies for the targeting of TAM using nanomedicine are reviewed. Passive targeting using different nanoparticle systems is described. Since TAM display a number of upregulated surface proteins compared to non-TAM, specific targeting using targeting ligands coupled to nanoparticles is discussed in detail.
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